How to Pick the Right Paralegal Course Near Palmer Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Palmer AK and start your journey that will result in a fulfilling profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it's crucial that you locate the best school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you need to succeed. As you probably understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational options are becoming available, both on campus and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one start? Many potential students start by searching for schools within driving distance of their Palmer residences. Of those alternatives, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only factors you should consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the school need to be taken into consideration too. Later in this post we will cover a list of questions that you should ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare every one before making your choice. But before we do, let's take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic alternatives that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals basically both fill comparable job positions and functions, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a different job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Palmer AK lawyers with a wide range of job functions, such as maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job duties are based upon the type of practice where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could help with the logistics of a trial or transporting documents to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is usually billed hourly as are the attorney's. And just like lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the firms where they work, but some of their everyday tasks might include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping attorneys prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be involved and quite challenging. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not limited to administrative or clerical tasks more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the main support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys have the ability to handle a much larger number of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Certificates and Degrees and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The fastest way to launch your career as a legal assistant in Palmer AK is by earning a certificate, which may involve as little as six months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which offer a more expansive education and can be earned at numerous community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are an option as well. Once you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you might choose to proceed and earn a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alaska to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help maximize your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. Some of the highly regarded certifying agencies in the field are:
- National Federation of Paralegal Associations
- American Alliance of Paralegals
- National Association of Legal Assistants
- National Association for Legal Professionals
By graduating with a paralegal certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will address the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two crucial initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Classes
Online legal assistant or paralegal programs have become more popular and can be a good alternative for students searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to Palmer AK students who continue to work while earning a certificate or degree. As an added benefit, online programs can often be less expensive than on campus options. Even ancillary expenditures for such things as commuting or study materials may be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the training you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the school and program you are looking into are accredited by a highly regarded organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less supervised and conventional setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online may be the ideal choice for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Once you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what training choices are offered, you can begin the undertaking of assessing schools. But since there are so many programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the Palmer AK area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you need to know what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is particularly true when you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like many prospective students, you will begin by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other significant aspects to research also, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's take a look at a few of the questions you should be asking the schools you are researching so that you can properly vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in should be accredited by a highly regarded organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Palmer AK law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial aid and student loans are typically offered only for accredited programs.
What's the School's Reputation? Investigate what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal programs you are considering. This is of specific importance if you are new to the profession with no prior work history, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Checking that the program you choose is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating reports, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call several Palmer AK law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even though a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal establishment while attending school. They can also provide a means for students to begin establishing contacts within the Palmer AK legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are evaluating offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will probably wish to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new field can be challenging without support. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Alaska legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Because laws differ among states, it may be a good idea to select a paralegal school domiciled in Alaska or the state where you want to work after graduation. Also, it will be valuable to build relationships in the local legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to acquire your education in the community where you want to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many charge an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might wish to first investigate those colleges that are within the Palmer AK region.
What is the Total Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in cost based on the credential received and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Remember to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance might be obtainable to help minimize some of the expense, so make sure to consult with the school's financial aid office to see what is available in Palmer AK. Naturally if you choose to attend an online program, some of these supplementary costs, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? Many legal students continue working while receiving their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Palmer AK, make certain classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the program you select provides that option. Finally, inquire what the protocol is for making-up classes missed as a result of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Right Palmer Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Selecting the best paralegal studies degree program is a vital first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have addressed in this post, you have the option of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Palmer home. Paralegal training programs are offered in various formats and lengths. Several kinds of private and public institutions offer paralegal education, including community colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to be successful in this fascinating profession. But irrespective of how you elect to acquire your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to evaluate each program and make your ultimate decision. And with the ideal training you can accomplish your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Palmer Alaska.